We continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin looking at the seasons of a marriage with the topic: “Love is Exhausting.” I interviewed a panel of couples at the South Campus. Here are some of our thoughts:
“We’ve all heard the statistics: 1 out of 2 marriages ends in divorce. Maybe you haven’t heard these statistics:
- Only 1 out of 3 marriages makes it to 25 years of marriages
- Only 1 out of 5 make it to 35 years
- Only 1 out of 20 make it to 50 years
- 10% of marriages end in the first year
- 10% of marriages end in years two & three
- 25% of marriages end between years four & twenty
- After 20 years of marriage, only 10% of marriages end in divorce
Too often we have incredibly unrealistic expectations, and we’re not prepared to work at marriage. As a result, we get stuck but refuse to go see experts or let others help us.
There are 3 crunch points in every marriage where you have to make adjustments, you have to go for a tune up, and not surprisingly these are also the years in which most divorces take place—year 2, year 7, and first years as empty nesters.
Year 2 – Resolving Conflict Through Communication (This is usually just before the kids but after the romance ends)
God’s view of marriage is this: ‘Two imperfect people, entering a life-long commitment to pursue a loving intimacy of oneness that only reliance on God’s love can accomplish.’
You WILL marry a deeply flawed person, yet we’re all shocked when we discover it. We’re trying to hook up two deeply flawed individuals with the hope of producing one bliss-filled, problem free relationship.
Jesus reminds us of God’s design for marriage quoting Genesis 2: ‘The Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ (Matthew 19:4-6)
The goal is this intimacy of Oneness—not that we fuse, mind meld, or irradicate our individuality, but instead we ‘Leave’ our family of origin, and unite as One new family—But this means leaving what we grew up with. It’s really hard to realize that your family of origin gave you some great gifts—things you want to keep, but also some bad stuff God wants to heal or just throw out.
With God’s help we can die to our narcissistic, individualistic, me centered ways, and think of the other as much as we do ourselves.
‘Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had…When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died on a cross for us’. (Philippians 2:3-8)
To truly learn to love, whether single or married, involves a kind of dying to ourselves to love the other (dying to our old ways, our old families, wanting everyone to be wired just like us, and dying to pride so we can admit our wrongs).
Year 7 – Adjusting to life with children
Studies by U. of Virginia showed the most stressful time in a marriage is right after the first child is born. Years 7-8 are the highest years of divorce since couples weren’t prepared to adjust from 2-3 years of married life without kids to the new depth of dying to yourself that has to happen when you have kids.
Define the Relationship every new season.
If we are going to nourish our marriages, we must carve out regular times to get away alone together. These departures should ideally be daily, weekly, and annually. First, at least once a day, a couple needs a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation. Try to talk about some subjects other than just the kids or work. Find out what’s going on inside the other person.
Finally, don’t go through the exhausting years alone! That’s a recipe for disaster. God intended the church to be like a second family, family done His way, supportive, encouraging, truth-telling, helping each other succeed.”